Does your joint hurt? Do you find some movements difficult? Well, it could be the beginning of a joint condition that commonly affects during the middle ages. 45 plus people are vulnerable to many illnesses and osteoarthritis is one of them. But what is osteoarthritis? Are there any ways to prevent it? How to manage osteoarthritis if you already have it?

Let us understand this in detail.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint condition that often results from wear and tear of the joints. This is called degeneration, which is a normal part of aging. Usually, when two bones come together, a joint formed, which has cartilage in between the bones. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber, allows smooth movement, and protects the bones and the joint. However, with years of usage of the joint, the cartilage wears out, thus exposing the bones that formed the joint. As there is no cushion in between, the exposed ends of the bones rub against each other, which results in discomfort. This condition is osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes difficulty in the movement of the bones, which leads to various symptoms. The commonest symptoms of osteoarthritis include

  • pain in the joint
  • stiffness
  • sometimes swelling
  • difficulty in joint movement
  • restricted range of motion
  • inability to perform daily tasks

Chronic pain can affect various skills that require the use of the affected joint. Difficulty in moving can make it difficult to be active that can further worsen the problem due to lack of physical exercises Some people, may even begin to feel upset about the decreased ability to perform certain tasks, which can affect mental health.

Know your risks

It can occur at any age, usually after midlife, or depending on the wear and tear of the joints. Hence, it is more common in the 45 plus period. It can affect any joint, although it is commonly seen in the most used joints. For example, the knees, wrists, fingers, ankles, and also the spine. The use of joints varies from person to person, based on your occupation, involvement in sports, or other activities. The risk of degeneration is more in some people based on previous injuries, health conditions, and lifestyle.
Osteoarthritis occurs due to joint damage, mainly the cartilage within the joint. It can also occur early due to past injuries like joint dislocation, a torn cartilage, ligament injuries, or any trauma that causes faster degeneration of the joint. Certain factors can put you at greater risk of having osteoarthritis. Gender, family history, joint malformation, and the effect of other health conditions are some of those, which you may not be able to modify.

However, some risk factors involve your lifestyle, these include

  • poor posture
  • being overweight or obese,
  • smoking, consuming excess alcohol,
  • improper care and treatment following injuries or joint problems,
  • physical inactivity and
  • lack of appropriate strengthening of muscles and joints.

Experts also believe that inadequate intake of calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients may also increase your risk of joint problems.

How To Prevent or Manage It?

People of all ages need to take care of your joints, including children and adults. However, being in the 45 plus age group, it bears more significance. Children and young adults heal faster and better without having much to do. However, as age advances, the overall health may get affected by various factors. Hormonal fluctuations, declining bone and muscle strength, increased body weight, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, and other health conditions can influence the way your body reacts to bone changes. Injuries occurring during adult age may be difficult to health if your fitness levels are low.

45 plus period is common as, by this time, most people show some degeneration in their joints, as a natural part of aging. However, you can reduce your risk by controlling certain factors and taking the right step towards a healthy lifestyle.

Some of the ways to prevent osteoarthritis or manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis include the following

  • Know about your condition and learn self-management techniques
  • Get yourself evaluated and understand your condition and its impact on your health
  • Maintain ideal body weight as it helps reduce weight on the stress-bearing joints, controlling its early degeneration. It can help reduce pain, lessen joint damage, and improve joint movement.

Be active – Modify your lifestyle to incorporate daily physical exercises in any form. Also be active throughout the day, doing household chores, playing with kids, or engaging in fun activities. Adjust your activity level based on your symptoms and avoid exertion when you have pain or flare-ups of osteoarthritis. If you already have arthritis, choose activities that suit your health and fitness levels. Begin with low impact exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming. Aqua aerobics is also a good option.

Protect your joints – Use proper footwear and proper protective gear when exercising or participating in sports. Avoid activities that require repetitive movement of the joints, particularly if they are injured or if you have arthritis of that joint. Sports-related injuries, ligament tears from sprains, and fractures are common injuries. Make sure you get them properly treated with appropriate rehabilitation and physical therapy. Follow medical advice and gradually return to your regular activities, as advised by your doctor.

Get the right nutrition – Bone and joint health need good nutrition, including calcium, vitamin D, proteins, and other micronutrients. Dairy, eggs, lean meat, soy, leafy vegetables, and sprouts are the best sources. However, if you are unable to meet the daily requirement through your diet, consider taking nutritional supplements.

Osteoarthritis can be painful but you can prevent early degeneration and manage the symptoms well to protect your joints. In our next blog, we will look at knee pain due to aging.

Dr Snehal Singh
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